Cowboys prevail, Harlandale’s last shot off the mark
AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: Harlandale, McCollum.
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Adding Harlandale, McCollum and Sam Houston to an already potent basketball district has created a minefield of trials and tribulations.
Of the 20 games played between Jan. 3 and Jan. 16 in District 28-5A, 12 were decided by five points or fewer. McCollum’s 52-50 win over rival Harlandale on its home floor was the Cowboys’ second-consecutive contribution to that 60 percent figure.
The Cowboys (12-11, 4-4) won their third-straight game in the series.
McCollum also edged Edison (8-15, 3-5) 53-49 Jan. 13 at Alamo Convocation Center. The wins forged a four-way tie for third-place with Brackenridge, Highlands and Sam Houston midway through the 28-5A season.
“All these games, for the most part, are coming down to the wire,” McCollum coach Marcus Alvarado said. “From a competition standpoint, it makes it intense. You have to work and scrap down to the last minute, then you’ve just got to pull it out.”
Eighth-place Harlandale (12-12, 2-6) came into the game riding high after upsetting Burbank (19-6, 6-2) 75-69 on Jan. 13. The Bulldogs were undefeated in 28-5A and shared first place with Lanier at the time.
Although that outcome wasn’t among the 60 percent, it was one of the 13 games (65 percent) that were decided by 10 points or fewer in the same span.
“I’ve been coaching 20 years and I’ve never seen a more-balanced district,” Harlandale coach Chris Adamek said. “They say this about the NBA. It’s a make or miss league.”
The saying refers to games coming down to the final shot.
Harlandale’s Ryan Blanquiz (13 points) couldn’t find the range on a three-point try from the right corner with two seconds on the clock Jan. 16 at McCollum. Blanquiz had tied the score 50-50 by converting a three-point play with 33 seconds remaining.
Cowboys senior Danny Lerma recorded the winning basket on a driving layup with 13 seconds left.
“I saw a new guy was on me,” Lerma said. “Whenever I got the ball, I was going to look to score. The ball just fell. I was going to look to score no matter what.”
Lerma had made two important free throws after teammate Angel Loera took a charge in the waning seconds against Edison.
“When Angel took the charge, it lifted us up,” Lerma said. “I had to make the free throws we needed for the win.”
Alvarado said that win helped pave the way for the win over Harlandale. Like the Indians, the Cowboys have a somewhat young team and needed the experience only close games can provide, he said.
“With these young guys, it creates intensity,” Alvarado said. “It carries over. You’re basically playing playoff basketball every night.”
When Harlandale and McCollum share a court, the desire to defeat a rival adds another dimension.
The Indians led 14-8 after a quarter and 25-22 at halftime. McCollum gained a 31-27 lead with 6:33 left in the third quarter by making back-to-back 3-point shots.
“At halftime, we were struggling,” Lerma said. “Then we made some shots. We just kept our heads up and kept fighting. We knew they were going to come after us.”
Harlandale changed its defense in the fourth quarter and forced three consecutive turnovers with about five minutes remaining in the game. A basket from senior post Ram Torres brought Harlandale within 43-40.
The Indians took a 47-46 lead on two free throws from Blanquiz with 2:49 to play. Cowboys senior guard Nate Aguero (13 points) stole the ball and sank two free throws for a 50-47 lead at the 1:59 mark.
“We still have eight games left,” Adamek said. “We’ve got the whole second half to play. It’s far from over.”
For Alvarado, the win was his first over Harlandale as coach at his alma mater.
“I almost feel like a young man playing Harlandale for the first time,” he said. “It’s been a rivalry since Day 1. I have the utmost respect for Chris and the Harlandale Indians.”
LAST 12 HARLANDALE-McCOLLUM GAMES
McCollum 7 wins, Harlandale 5 wins
Date Harlandale McCollum Location
Jan. 16, 2015 50 52 McCollum
Feb. 11, 2014 65 67 McCollum
Jan. 17, 2014 68 75 Harlandale
Feb. 12, 2013 60 39 Harlandale
Jan. 18, 2013 62 32 McCollum
Feb. 14, 2012 60 62 McCollum
Jan. 20, 2012 44 48 Harlandale
Dec. 3, 2011 67 60 South San
Feb. 15, 2011 65 74 Harlandale
Jan. 21, 2011 61 75 McCollum
Feb. 16, 2010 66 46 McCollum
Jan. 22, 2010 62 53 Harlandale